Features

Success Rock: Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys Interviewed

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Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys formed in 2009 when the original trio – brothers Nic and Ben Warnock and Joe Sukit – had all settled in Sydney. Back when they formed, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys were very funny and entertaining to see live, but they were also very shit. Undeniably so. Combine the band’s innate shitness with a very dumb name and you have a band that, theoretically, no one would want to listen to ever.

Things turned around though. Later, they released two singles on R.I.P. Society – which Nic Warnock operates – and they were both very good. Eventually they recruited Doug Gibson on drums and, despite Gibson having never played the drums before, it made a positive difference. Ready For Boredom, their first full-length album – was recorded over two days in March 2012. It’s out now.

I spoke with all four members in their Enmore home last December.

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Three of you are from Cairns. What was growing up there like? Do you remember it fondly?
Nic: When I moved to Sydney, which was when I was 17, I moved to the Western Suburbs to go to the UWS Penrith campus. Back then I’d tell everyone that I’d move back to Cairns when I was older. I thought it was a good place to raise a family and I was proud of Cairns in some way. And I still feel that was the truth: it was a good place to grow up. I had a good childhood experience and an excellent school experience. All the people I know in music that grew up in Cairns thinks it’s awful as an adult, but as a kid it’s pretty good.

Ben: I think it’s a good place to grow up, but because it’s a remote area schooling isn’t as good, sporting isn’t as good and culturally there was nothing going on.

Nic: But I’m thankful for that because we had no youth music culture in Cairns. Cairns isn’t that small, but we had no contemporary youth music culture. So we never had to be into pop punk. But now there is – now the kids are all into that bro hardcore screamo. That’s a thing there now, and kids are kinda sucked into liking it as a social thing. But maybe someone comes out the other end and finds out about the Cro-Mags or something, and it turns into a positive.

Ben: That [culture emerged] on the verge of me leaving high school. When I was in bands in high school there’d be these other bro hardcore bands playing and we’d get asked to play shows with them at PCYC rec centre things, and we’d be like “no, we can’t do that. We can’t play at a drug and alcohol free event.”

Nic: Yeah. The thing that I thought was good was that there was no contemporary version of the stuff we were listening to in our town, so we got to go at it with a really open mind. I remember this one time Joe gave me burnt copies of Generic Flipper, the first Jesus and Mary Chain album, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Spacemen 3. I had no context for any of it. I didn’t know until years later that Flipper were associated with hardcore. I had no idea about any of that. At one stage we were into classic rock, and at the other end Joe would give me some Electric Eels or Throbbing Gristle and that was equally exciting. Then we’d listen to Black Sabbath at the same time as hardcore.

Joe: It was a different thing because I didn’t have the internet. I’m from Gordonvale which is about half an hour south of Cairns. I didn’t have the internet until I was in grade 10. The only way I’d find out about bands was going to the library and getting all the Nirvana books I could find and going through the back pages, the indexes, and writing all the band names down. It was stupid shit: you’d write down Television and at the same time you’d write down Black Flag. I remember writing this Word document of all the bands that I had to find out about and what I thought they sounded like from reading the two sentences about them in the book. Then when you got access to the internet you’d wait the whole time to download a 30 second clip of whatever you could find. Rage guest programming [was a way of discovering] as well – but you had no idea about anything. You made up your own music history, it was everything at the same time. That was good. In terms of everything else – all I did when I was a kid was play sport, or I was surrounded by cane farms and rainforest so I’d just go and walk. Sometimes you’d ride bikes. It was a regular small town experience.

Nic: We lived a seven minute drive from the city, but public transport was shit so you had to rely on your parents to take you anywhere. We were in the inner western suburbs but it took 40 minutes on the bus to get to the skate park. It was a hot bus, it sucked.

Doug, you’re not from Cairns.
Doug: I’m from Trangie, which is about 550k north west of Sydney. Cairns is a city, but I grew up in a town of about 1000, and even then I grew up on a farm 20 ks out of town. I went to boarding school when I was in year 7. When I was growing up I had the intention of having a career in agriculture, of buying a ute with a fucking sick five-poster [bullbar] and big roll bar and big mudflaps; a couple of big whippies and spotties, going to B&S balls and smashing birds all weekend. That’s what I thought my life was going to be. I was basically just like any other country boy growing up on a farm.

Nic: Then those artistes got their claws into you, didn’t they? They got you into culture! [laughs]

Doug: I went to boarding school and I was going to school with kids that weren’t just from the country. There were kids from the city and the coast who had different interests. You start getting introduced to different music, the art teachers start telling you stuff that you look up, and you get exposed to stuff you wouldn’t otherwise get into in Trangie. Your attitudes toward what’s important in life change. I chose a direction that headed away from agriculture even though it defined so much of my life when I was growing up.

I went to a boarding school in south west Sydney. It was an agricultural boarding school on a 365 acre commercial dairy farm. There were 350 co-ed boarders, which was a novel experience. As far as finding out about music, I had a couple of mates who had similar taste in music to me, but most of the time it was me finding out stuff myself and trying to tell my friends about it and them having absolutely no interest in what I was listening to at all. I listened to Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson until I was about fifteen.

Cairns folk – Ben, Nic, Joe – how did you find Sydney when you moved here?
Nic: well I lived in Penrith for three years, hence my day job at Repressed Records. I was friggin sad when my Dad left; when I realised what Penrith was. I didn’t understand, I thought it was like Parramatta distance away. It was a different place to actual Sydney. But within a couple of days I was into it, and I found Repressed Records and I was like “fuck, there’s at least one cool thing in this suburb”. And there were some cool people from the country who were also from the university, and there were interesting international students. I enjoyed study. I was only 17, but I feel if I was in the city [from the beginning] I would have been more cynical and not have connected with those groups of people that I really liked.

What kind of people?
Nic: I mean just going to Yvonne Ruve, going to see any Kiosk or Naked on the Vague show, or any show Castings were playing when I turned 18. Darryl Prondoso, who was in Onani, the first band I played in when I moved down, we just got talking one day outside the MCA for class. We started talking about music and stuff, and I had finally met one other cool person. Which was shocking, because I was surprised that every other person wearing skinny jeans and a strippy shirt wasn’t obsessed with the Ramones, or didn’t want to know about the Dictators or the Germs or something. To me, that [dress sense] was a signifier of wanting to be into punk.

So then I started talking to Daryl about all this stuff, and the only contemporary thing in Sydney we both liked was Kiosk. When I turned 18 he took me to the New Zealand Noise Festival at the Mandarin Club, so we saw Castings and Birchville Cat Motel. That was my first live music experience in Sydney, because we both wanted to know what this noise music was. At the time, I was still deep into trying to figure out the history of rock ‘n roll. Moving into Sydney, I felt like I was already quite familiarised with the place because I was commuting from Penrith every weekend to see shows. All those people I met I’m still pretty connected with still, even though we’re a pretty straight rock ‘n roll band.

Ben: I moved down in 2008 straight after high school, about three years after Nic. When I was in grade 12 it was the prime of MySpace, so the internet was easily accessible. I could listen to bands like Kiosk or Dead Farmers through their MySpace players. My perception of bands was completely different once I moved to Sydney and saw them live. The first time I saw Dead Farmers I was blown away, though I hadn’t thought anything of them before that, when I was still just streaming on MySpace. It changed the way I got into music and it [MySpace] made it a lot easier knowing what was going on in Sydney before I came here – what shows I wanted to see, which venues I wanted to go to.

How did you know about those bands?
Ben: Well Nic told me to look them up.

Nic: Joe knew too. Joe knew Kiosk before he’d even left Townsville. Once I got to uni and had full access to the internet I accessed everything I could. I spent ages going through every single thing. As a fan of music you always want to find another band, always want to find something new. I guess it was amplified coming from a place where you were excluded from everything. It’s not like “missing out”, but it’s something that you’re interested in and feel something about and you just want to know it all.

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Reviews

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Ready For Boredom (LP)

bedwettersRock music! How very unexciting. Sydney’s Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys are definitely a rock band, and listening to Ready For Boredom, there’s no disputing they’ve heard a lot of it. At least one of the guys in this band works in a record store.

In a recent blog post, Simon Reynolds addressed a Pitchfork review of Interpol’s debut reissue, which claimed that in retrospect, 2002 “may have been the very year that we stopped talking about how music sounds, and started talking about what other music it sounds like.” Reynolds points out that this “delirium referentia” isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to post-millennial rock music, and that it was endemic in the ye olde Forced Exposure zine back in the ’80s, and propagated by groups like Pavement – members of which also worked in record stores. Basically, a lot of modern rock music is defined by its intimate understanding of the rock ‘n roll eco-system: how it responds and adapts to tradition. The press release for this Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys’ LP cites three other, older bands, because that’s how you know whether this band is good for you or not. That’s just the way we talk about rock music: in footnotes and references; in genre compounds; in terms of what band A created, and how they led the way for band B. While that tendency has become more explicit since the i******t, it’s certainly not unique to the ’00s and beyond.

I mention this because it feels necessary to acknowledge that on paper, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys is a very average band. On that alphabetical continuum, they’d be band Z. Four guys making rock music you’ve heard before. Trading in riffs you could swear you’ve heard elsewhere. The band has three vocalists and exactly none of them can quite hit the notes they want to. When sometimes they do, you want to golf clap and fist bump them. On Ready For Boredom they don’t even resort to low fidelity to mask their technical shortcomings. This is not music composed with music critics in mind. It’s a collection of dots connected.

Ready For Boredom is the best rock record I have heard for years, though. It makes me immensely happy, it makes me feel soft in the stomach, and it makes me angry when someone doesn’t feel the same way. How does this happen? I can talk about emotions, and how relatable and life-affirming these songs are, and how much love for the form these guys demonstrate through their playing and songwriting, but… you know, other older bands do that well too. It’s objectively true that Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys are great because of their songs, but for me, they’re important in a kinda old fashioned way: they sail against the wind, they push against the norm. Not in a formally important sense, but more for the way they implicitly antagonise that “delirium referentia” by making the most proletariat, empathetic, and common rock music there could be in 2013, but in the most blatantly unfashionable way possible. There is no jangle here. No disinterest. No apathy. They care so much about rock music and life that it’s kinda disorientating. They’re trying really, really hard. When I listen to Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, I know that rock music is a vehicle. It’s a set of rules that happen to correlate with what is important to these four guys. It makes sense to speak in this language.

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys write songs that you can blindly skol longnecks to, but some of them are quite devastatingly sad, and crucial to that – and what defines the album as a whole – is the feeling of outgrowing rock ‘n roll but still wanting it. Of no longer being a youth but still wanting to be. Of realigning your priorities despite your instincts. In some ways, Ready For Boredom feels like an album about outgrowing a rock ‘n roll ‘lifestyle’: of wondering how to possibly transition between reckless and balanced in the blink of an eye (if only that were possible!).

Ready For Boredom is not a blind celebration of youth, it’s not a party album, and it’s not a “punk” album. There is monumental fear here. The nominal boredom = comfort. A life on the fringes and a diet of cup-a-soup is no longer attractive. Let’s settle down. We’re ready for boredom. Yet despite possibly being wimps, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys are stubbornly a meat and potatoes rock ‘n’ roll band that make music you already know you’re gonna like.

It’s writ large on several of the songs here. ‘Have You Ever’ asks whether you’ve “slept through an entire weekend” in a tone that suggests that’s a complete waste of your resources. ‘Bite My Tongue’ is about keeping your mouth shut – not operating entirely on instinct, learning tact and the importance of it. During ‘Ready For Boredom’, Nic Warnock admits that he’s “sick and tired of the rest of society” but wonders whether he should be bored, and then, whether you wouldn’t mind being bored with him. At no point do Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys implore you to get loose, despite the music physically demanding it. Rather, they’re there: taking the hits we all do as we journey from dumb arse punk to actual human being.

Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t a lifestyle anymore. It can sound like it is, but it isn’t. Everyone needs to shift gears, everyone needs to earn a crust. The world is hostile. Everyone needs to survive. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys encapsulate the other rock ‘n roll experience in 2013. This record knows that the modern understanding of rock ‘n roll is the province of the advantageous. It’s an alternative lifestyle you can only live if you’re lucky enough to be born into wealth, or brave enough to rough it.

This group doesn’t fit that lineage. You’ll want to keep playing their record when you’re strapped to a mortgage and commuting three hours a day in the direction of a desk. They want you to feel accounted for when the rest of the world renders you meaningless. This is a record about rock’s glorious, irresistible folly, but it’s not a capitulation: it merely addresses your neuroses, their neuroses, and assures you that you’re not alone. It’s a bearhug followed by an affectionate punch in the gut.

It also sounds like Guided By Voices, Slade, The Replacements, Kiss, Green Day (seriously!) and a bunch of other bands you’ve probably heard before. Rock music! How weird is it. This band is called Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys.

Label: R.I.P Society (available January 14)
Release date: January 2013

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New Music

Listen: Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Bite My Tongue

readyforboredomWe said that Crawlspace was done for the year, but then this happened. It’s the first publicly available track from the new Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys LP, which releases January 14 through R.I.P. Society records. I’ve had the actual record for a couple of weeks now and it’s rather bloody incredible, probably the first pure rock record I’ve listened to three times a day and from start to finish, since… I can’t even remember. Probably either the Circle Pit record or the Guided By Voices best-of.

‘Bite My Tongue’ is pretty representative of the spirit of Ready For Boredom: it’s a song about learning restraint and, by extension, growing up a bit. This record kinda hugs you like a warm blanket but also kicks you in the arse a little bit for being a loafer. It will become very important to you.

We have a full interview with the band going up when we return in January. In the meantime, listen to the track and stare at the launch tour dates.

January Sat 19, Brisbane, The Primitive
January Fri 25, Melbourne, John Curtin
January Sun 27, Adelaide, The Metro
February Fri 1, Sydney, The Square
February Sun 3, Newcastle, TBC

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Features

2012 in review: artists and Crawlspace editors

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This is a collection of reflections and lists from Crawlspace editors, as well as a handful of the artists we’ve featured in 2012. Editor Shaun Prescott opens proceedings. Brace yourself.

At the beginning of the year I hated writing about music. I wanted to stop and work full time on a novel, which pretty much signals the end for any writer (unless they manage to complete that novel and it’s okay). The sentiment wasn’t born of dwindling interest in music, but more the brutal logistics of making a worthwhile outlet work. These are the logistics (pageviews / unique hits = revenue) that render a lot of the music we cover on Crawlspace virtually non-existent to outsiders.

For someone whose taste has always been driven by the written word (that’s old-fashioned at best and illogical at worst, I know) it felt like there wasn’t enough writing about Australian groups that would have made me dreamy as a teenager. Things that you read about that make you think, “wow, that sounds incredible and I must track it down,” or “why would anyone listen to that? Help me understand.” Stuff that opens up whole new avenues and ways of listening. If I hadn’t discovered groups like Castings, or Moonmilk, or Naked on the Vague, or Alps, purely by accident upon moving to Sydney in 2005 – where would I be? Crawlspace is largely a response to failed pitches.

The thing is, most of Australia’s best music is often only heard by the people who make it and by their peers. In Sydney, you see the same people at all the good shows. This is healthy enough: that’s a community. Music doesn’t always need to amount to more than that. But in other ways that’s just not good enough. As a believer that reading about music should be about discovery and, sometimes, re-aligning one’s understanding of what they already like, it just made sense to make this website. I also unapologetically believe that 99% of Australia’s music media is ignoring this country’s most important art, instead slavishly covering what the overseas market or the established local “industry” deems fit for consumption. This longstanding habit is an absolute fucking stain on a media that is meant to excite, educate and actually be there when something remarkable is happening just down the road.

Diplomatically speaking, there’s so much to discover, and there are heaps of bands that I wanted Crawlspace to cover in detail this year that never got a run: Collarbones released an incredible record that I greatly admire. Southern Comfort finally released a proper piece of wax. Newcastle’s Grog Pappy label sent us a package we haven’t covered yet (there is something in the works, though). Teen Ax released a great tape that I couldn’t quite articulate the appeal of.

Crawlspace has kinda defined 2012 for me, thus the tiring prologue. Sorry about that. Here’s the business:

  • 2012 has been a year of great songs. Circular Keys’ ‘Eurogrand’, Kitchen’s Floor’s ‘Bitter Defeat’, Nun’s ‘Solvents’, Lower Plenty’s ‘Nullabor’ are all favourites.
  • I feel like Breakdance the Dawn is the strongest LP-oriented label in Australia: their hastily packaged CD-Rs usually communicate one single idea incredibly well. Often they feel like transmissions from a world that is vaguely similar to mine, yet it’s somehow melted, fraught with illogical dream-state segues. Girls Girls Girls and Club Sound Witches both provided highlights.
  • My favourite LP this year was WonderfulsSalty Town, which I still haven’t reviewed, but will. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a record that captures small town loneliness and neurosis quite as effectively – and it’s not even (completely) about that. It’s a tough record to swallow. It’s emotionally challenging and confronting.  A close second is Mental Powers‘ LP.
  • Woollen Kits are a group I’ve maintained total ambivalence towards up until now. I’ve heard the 7s and bought the first LP, but found all astonishingly dull. They wouldn’t let me in. Magically, Four Girls did. Prosaically speaking I think they simply became better songwriters.
  • The best punk rock record of the year is Taco Leg‘s. Many thought my review suggested otherwise. Sorry about that.
  • Fatti Frances’ Sweaty EP is something I think about regularly when I’m not listening to it. It’s so strangely modern in its positioning of love and lust, and whether there should be a versus there.
  • If Australia celebrated new music as tirelessly as it did the old, than Midday Music: Brisbane 2012 is an essential a document as Lethal Weapons and… a bunch of other old compilations that people fawn over.
  • Melodie Nelson’s To The Dollhouse is objectively one of the best records in 2012, but I’m quarantined from all things MN because she’s one of my best friends. So don’t trust me. Listen for yourself. She also made the logo for Crawlspace. Thanks for that.

Anyway, without further ado, over the page is a series of reflections and lists from some of the groups and artists Crawlspace has covered since it launched in August this year, as well as our writers. We humbly thank everyone who participated.

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Reviews

Woollen Kits – Four Girls (LP)

woollenkitsMelbourne’s Woollen Kits devote their latest LP to girls. Not girls in general, but girls through the scope of ‘60s garage. Four Girls is less punk than what’s come before, and more dreaming-of-the-one-you-love. As their second album of the year following a popular self-titled debut, Four Girls has its work cut out for it.

All four devotions to female-kind show off different aspects of Woollen Kits’ make. ‘Cheryl’ is a rough-edged dual vocal ditty with extended vowels for the chorus. ‘Sandra’ sits low and tears it up, the closest the bands gets to a wig out. ‘Susannah’ moves towards pop, while ‘Shelley’ demonstrates what has come to be regarded as classic Woollen Kits.

But of the titular four girls, it’s ‘Shelley’ and ‘Susannah’ who really steal the show, with saxophone playing a major part in the optimistic refrain of the latter. They’ve used the instrument before, but only for flair, whereas here it’s a simple chorus hook but it makes the song. ‘Shelley’ is a fun, careless blonde, as successful a song the band could hope for in this ‘60s adoring guise.

Four Girls is the most workmanlike Woollen Kits missive to date. It sounds more like down-the-line garage pop/rock than their self-titled record, which itself didn’t try to beat around the shed. ‘Please’ is a mostly forgettable plea to a father to take his daughter out on a date, while ‘All Sorts’ feels like filler. With the six minute ‘On The Move’, the band files out with a typical finale – slower, slighter, longer – a build up and a come down. They’ve shown they can do droll well before – go no further than ‘University Narcolepsy’ from Woollen Kits – but this doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s a good ending, but a predictable one.

Truth is, Four Girls doesn’t make me feel the way Woollen Kits have done before. I don’t have the desire to share these songs the way I did with ‘Maths’, or the highlights of the first LP. I don’t have the same envy for the three boys who wrote the songs. ‘Cheryl’ mostly sums up this LP: “When you feel good, you get shit done.” Four Girls gets by. It’s attractive, sure, but I can never shake the feeling that it’s just doing what it has to do. Enjoyable but unremarkable.

Label: R.I.P Society
Release date: December 2012

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